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Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  5,723 ratings  ·  670 reviews
An inspiring collection of birth stories by a charming midwife.

Each time she knelt to “catch” another wriggling baby—nearly three thousand times during her remarkable career—California midwife Peggy Vincent paid homage to the moment when pain bows to joy and the world makes way for one more. With every birth, she encounters another woman-turned-goddess: Catherine rides out
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 15th 2003 by Scribner (first published March 26th 2002)
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Average rating 4.35  · 
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 ·  5,723 ratings  ·  670 reviews

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Shira and Ari Evergreen
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Recommended to Shira and Ari by: Kate Finn
Okay, everyone, read this right now! Everyone! Can we pass it out in schools? And can we make every doctor in the country read it? That would help!

Peggy Vincent is amazing. Women are amazing. This book is evidence of that, as well as of how wrong-headed and competition-oriented and exploitative and ridiculous patriarchy can be when it tries to get in the way of women making babies. Story after story filled my eyes with tears, and my heart with joy and a deep feeling of proud sisterhood. But agai
Jan 21, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm giving this three stars because I love the idea of this book, and I love the format of each birth having a little story...but by the end of this book I absolutely hated the author. Why this woman was a midwife is a total mystery to me. She doesn't have compassion for women in labor, doesn't seem to like women in labor (she complains repeatedly about the greeting she gets at various houses--like the time she had to stand out in the rain because no one came to the door--THERE IS A WOMAN IN LAB ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What a magnificent read. Peggy held me enthralled from the first line, the first word. I read half the book in one sitting, didn't finish it sooner simply because life wouldn't get out of the way, but this is one book I'd happily have curled up on the sofa with and shut out the world. It's a celebration of life, like Anne Lamott says on the blurb, and a celebration too of womanhood, the feminine sisterhood. It's a memoir on a deeper side of women's fight for equality during the last half of the ...more
Abeer Hoque
May 21, 2009 rated it liked it
My only issue with Baby Catcher was that it was too long and a bit rambling (and I could have done without the Bible quotes that preceded each section). Other than that, it's a lovely memoir of a midwife's life in the (sometimes supportive) (sometimes horrifyingly not) Bay Area.

I think it would be a great book for mothers to read, so that the black box of labour and birth can be demystified a bit (from the sheer number of diverse births she describes), and also presented in a light that isn't c
I don't remember where I heard about this book, but I put it on my paperbackswap wishlist and finally scored a copy. It spent a few weeks perched on the corner of our kitchen table, but once I finally picked it up, I couldn't put it down.

I inhaled this book over the course of two days in April, staying up late at night to read, every once in a while stopping to re-read stories aloud to Andrew. Absolutely fascinating, this is a memoir encompassing the legal, societal, and hospital politics of the
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
In my quest for understanding childbirth better and gaining confidence towards it, I chose this book because it is so highly rated on Goodreads. In retrospect, I'm really surprised by that. The book is thought-provoking in some ways, but overall I didn't feel like I got anything out of it. Ultimately, I think I struggled because the author is very annoying, and since the book is really an autobiography, I just got sick of hearing all about her. I also felt that she distorted a lot of facts about ...more
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read the first half of this book in one day. It was fascinating to me to read a variety of birth stories while learning about the evolution of nursing/midwifery. I love reading birth stories because they are so varied, personal and interesting. Each time I read a labor story, I thought, "I don't ever want to have another baby. Those ladies are crazy. I can't believe I ever did that." Then, she'd talk about the moments after the baby was born and I'd think, "Man, I really want to have a baby."

Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I finally finished it! I really didn't mean to take so long reading it but this has been a busy month. That, and after each birth story I felt like I needed a break. Reading about labor is emotionally draining!

I loved hearing birth stories from the perspective of Peggy, the fearless, compassionate, endlessly intuitive midwife. I read many of the stories in utter disbelief. Some of them are almost too outrageous to be real! How was it that so many of the babies seemed to come so fast?! I especial
Jan 07, 2012 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

this book started off fantastic and amazing, then i unfortunately realized she was your general sweetly racist grandma, then i started judging her for "not being nice enough", but ended with me still mostly rooting for her.

i really enjoyed all the midwifery stories, the struggle that midwives had (and still have) to overcome in the medical industry. i appreciated her candor, her use of swear words, her openness to alternate lifestyles and religions.

frustratingly, her descriptions of a
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book even more than I thought I would! I love babies and labor stories, so I totally got my fix for a while. Peggy's accounts of her baby deliveries as a midwife are fascinating, funny, tender, sacred, sad, and nerve-wracking. She is a master storyteller and weaves her own life story as a midwife into the book. By the end, I was binge-reading to find out what became of Peggy the Midwife! I enjoyed hearing about the mothers she cared for from all walks of life. Berkeley, CA is trul ...more
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wow what an addicting read! So sad it's over, wheres the sequel? Oh wait this isn't a series ;(

I laughed out loud, cried heavy tears and learned a ton. Peggy is a wonderful writer who just sucks you right in starting with her early days as a nurse in training and then through discovering her love for obstetrics and then her desire to go into midwifery to see women having the birth experience of their choosing. This is a great read for any expecting mother, woman who ever wants children or has a
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I expected this book to cruise, Grey’s Anatomy style, on the built-in drama that accompanies labor and birth. There’s plenty of that drama, but also really wonderful figurative language that made me sit up in my seat, a trip in time through the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, and a narrative about a woman with Wooden-like levels of unflappable Kansas-bred excellence. The fact that it is structured as a series of vignettes made it really easy to read in stolen fragments of time in the middle of the night ...more
Apr 14, 2008 rated it liked it
The story of one woman's time spent as a nurse and as a midwife. Vincent has an engaging, friendly voice; I felt like we were friends within a chapter. The ways of thinking about and serving pregnant women have changed a huge amount since the 1960s, and Vincent documents it all from the front-line. The stories she tells are moving and sometimes hilarious, and the history she documents is fascinating.
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful revealing glimpse inside the life of a midwife. Each chapter a new tale, amusing, touching.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Some people think childbirth is icky. Some people feel it's awkward and uncomfortable to think or talk about. Some people approach it with anxiety and fear of the pain and possible complications. One doctor in this book told the author, Peggy Vincent, that (a paraphrase) "every birth is complicated until proven otherwise."

Peggy Vincent spent her entire professional career combating those preconceptions, one birth at a time. Her approach is the exact opposite of that doctor's: she believes that
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have had two high-risk pregnancies. Before, during, and after, I never would have considered a home-birth and thought that anyone who did was crazy and really asking for trouble. But, reading this book definitely changed my mind. Sort of. I delivered my children at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, California - the same hospital where the author of this book worked before becoming a licensed midwife. At Alta Bates, women labor (and usually deliver) in individual rooms. Only when there is an iss ...more
Syd Markle
Feb 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I’m a little obsessed at the moment with reading birth stories. Honestly, I can’t get enough of them especially natural and home birth stories because I don’t know that many women personally who have given birth without medication. I am fascinated with the timeline, the pain, what happened, where it happened and how they handled it. Hospital and medicated birth stories are interesting too; I’m just really interested in the honest truth about the un-medicated pain all the way through and methods ...more
Sarah Sammis
Jul 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Near the middle of The Baby Catcher, Peggy Vincent describes two births that ended in C-section; one where the mother waited too long and one where the mother didn't. For the one that ended poorly (in extreme brain damage including blindess and deafness), the mother ignored all the advice she had been given even though she had a history of fetal distress deliveries resulting in C-section.

One detail that stood out for me in both births was the activity of the baby prior to birth. The children had
Dec 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: ladyish, 2011
A quick and easy read, this book follows the several decades of the career of Peggy Vincent who was first a nurse, and then a licensed midwife in Northern California. She delivered over 2,000 babies, mostly in and around Berkeley. Sometimes being a midwife was wonderful, empowering, lucrative and exciting, and other times it was an uphill battle against The Man, Big Insurance and women's own fear. Almost every chapter is a stand-alone birth story, which is great since she has plenty of material ...more
Feb 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sonja Rutherford
Sep 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Rounding up from 2.5 (ala Amy Green style). I was really excited to read this book about midwifery, I love birth stories, talking about pregnancy and babies in general. This book is filled w/ those stories, which is why I gave it 3 stars. What I didn't like is the (surprise surprise) holier than thou attitude regarding home births/sans drugs births versus any other kind of birth. Superiority regarding whether you want to/can get through a birth without drugs or medical intervention or whatever i ...more
Dec 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
LOVED it!!!

Emotional, moving, and REAL. I deeply appreciated sharing the thoughts, feelings, and birth stories that Ms. Vincent was able to recount. Much more profound than "I laughed, I cried," my summary reaction would be more like, "I burst out in joyful laughter, smiled wryly in sympathy, scowled in scorn and disappointment, and felt my heart rip open while its pieces leaked out in tears." The author has a real gift for bringing the reader not only into her mind and heart, but into the sacre
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'd had this on my "to read" list for quite some time, and finally picked it up. I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy a birth worker memoir, despite the fact that I love all things birthy. I guess I was nervous it would be dull. This was anything but!

I really enjoyed Vincent's writing style - each story flowed and she even created some extended plot suspense (which is hard to do in an autobiography). I enjoyed hearing about each birth story. Though I'm not a midwife, I understand her perspective (as a do
Feb 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
A pregnant friend lent this to me. At 34 weeks, she listened to her heart and ditched her doctor, finding some midwives she liked much better, ladies who didn't scoff at reasonable questions about her plan. If you think hosptial deliveries (epidural, wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am) are a given, this book will totally change your perception. Vincent, who spent decades catching freshly-minted human beings as they tumbled into our world, describes highly personal birth experiences, ones that reach a leve ...more
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2013, memoirs
I loved this book! I was completely riveted, and moved by so many of the stories. I think it was incredibly well-written and portrayed many aspects of birth that are not often discussed in American society.
While I loved this book, I was also uncomfortable with occasional judgements I felt Vincent was making about her patients, and a few off color comments that she made. She referred to one baby (covered in tarry mecomium) as a tarbaby which made me a uncomfortable ... And she also seemed a litt
May 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended by a friend and I was a little timid in picking it up. Birth is something that so many women feel passionate about, and in the process it can be alienating. It's easy to fall into the pattern of judging women for their decisions instead of being supportive.

I loved the variety of her experiences. It's cheesy to say, but I really did cry and laugh. It almost was enough to motivate a home-birth next time around. I mean, someone making me soup and doing my laundry while I'
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I really really enjoyed this book. I love stories of births! This was well written, easy to read quickly as each story was fascinating.
Some of my favorite quotes were
Page 61 Well, I certainly hope you're not going to do home deliveries. Pizzas should be delivered at home, not babies. Pretty soon, people will want to die at home.
Page 66 She put her arms around my neck before answering, and I felt her shoulders lift as she heaved a sigh fit for Broadway. Oh, Mom, I'm going to have twenty-five bab
Aug 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book completely changed my perception about the birth process. I wasn't sure I could stomach this book - much less the pain of giving birth without an epidural. Yet somewhere within these funny and touching birth stories my framework shifted.

Peggy Vincent presents birth as a natural, mysterious process that is highly unique and beautiful - something to be experienced, not simply a means to an end. In her hands, birth becomes a ritual, a celebration of life.

Baby Catcher is a wonderful book f
Dec 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, family, we-own
I've had this book for several years, but never really got around to reading it. Today must have been the day to read, because I read it from cover to cover -- had tears come to my eyes. . . laughed. . . Maybe it is because I'm pregnant that it is the right time.

My oldest son asked me if I wanted to be a midwife. "No. . . It's not my calling." I do believe midwifery is a calling. . . a vocation that isn't necessarily chose, but one that a woman is called to, internally, divinely.

I'm thankful for
Feb 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Vincent is a warm, thoughtful writer and her stories of catching babies in Berkley, California are warm and thoughtful, too. With just a few mishaps to color what is an otherwise glowing manual of the successes of homebirth, Vincent comes across as more passionate than rational, but still pretty darn rational. I wasn't surprised or even very entertained by anything I read. It's a nice book with nice stories-- hippie enough to appeal to the woo crowd, but with enough references to nursing and eno ...more
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Since observing the birth of a baby for the first time when I was a 19yo nursing student in the mid-Sixties at Duke University, childbirth has been my primary focus.
During the good old hippie years, my husband and I took an extended trip to Europe, but upon our return, I began working as an obstetrical nurse at a prominent hospital in Berkeley, California, where my first 2 children were born.
In 19

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